Feb 102014
 

HBO has posted a surprisingly lengthy trailer/behind-the-scenes look for the fourth season of Game of Thrones. The brief glimpses of various scenes in the video seem to confirm that this season will generally follow the latter half of the third book in the series (Storm of Swords). The show’s producers broadly hint that even more surprises await in this new seasons and I’m curious to see how fans unfamiliar with the books react to certain…unexpected…developments.

Here’s the video:

I’m finally making my way through the fifth book (Dance of Dragons) and, while it’s never boring, it has a certain plodding quality that often besets the middle volumes of fantasy series. I can see that Martin is arranging the pieces on the board for what I hope will be a satisfying endgame, but he probably could have accomplished this in substantially fewer pages. The TV series will need to find a way to remain faithful to Martin’s vision while sustaining narrative momentum, which won’t be an easy task.

Jan 242014
 

The Mac is celebrating its 30th anniversary today. While I’m primarily a Windows user now, a Mac Plus was the first computer that I could control with head movement. I spent a lot of time doodling with the drawing program and playing primitive arcade games. And now, I own a tablet from the same company that I can control with a single switch behind my ear. That realization is both amazing and a little disorienting.

Jan 142014
 

Now that Disney holds the deed to the entire Star Wars universe, it can do as it likes with the place. For starters, Disney has announced that it will take a lightsaber to the vast wasteland that is the Expanded Universe. The EU is the collective term for every bit of narrative detritus that isn’t part of the actual movies–books, comics, videogames, and so forth. The grand moffs at Disney will decide which bits are worthy of being designated as canon while the rest will be left to rot in the garbage compactor of some distant space station. Since nearly everything in the EU is execrable drivel, little will be saved. This move will give Disney plenty of room to tell new stories without worrying about whether it’s in conflict with some terrible paperback tie-in published in the 90s.

Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing Grand Admiral Thrawn make an appearance in one of the sequels. He may be the only character from the EU worth preserving.

Nov 222013
 

Fellow Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans may remember the annual Turkey Day marathons that aired during the Comedy Central years. I missed out on these because I didn’t catch the fever until the Scifi Channel era. Fortunately for me, creator Joel Hodgson will be hosting an online Turkey Day marathon this year to mark the show’s 25th anniversary. Hodgson will be selecting the episodes and I can only hope he chooses Pod People and Final Sacrifice, the best episodes from the Joel and Mike eras respectively. Depending on whether Aaron Rodgers returns in time for next Thursday’s game against Detroit, this may be my best option for Thanksgiving entertainment.

Nov 192013
 

Some Star Trek fans like to dress up as Klingons or Starfleet officers. Others like to write long-form essays that posit an economic theory of Star Trek. Rick Webb does an excellent job of explaining how a post-capitalist, post-scarcity economy might evolve from democratic traditions and a greatly expanded welfare state. In such a society, it could be perfectly acceptable for people to not work since everyone has access to the resources needed to live comfortably. Instead, people are motivated to seek personal enrichment and fulfillment. For some people, this might mean joining Starfleet. For others, it might mean becoming a competitive 3-D chess player.

It’s an economic theory that perhaps relies on an overly sunny view of human nature, but Webb makes it sound plausible. As he points out, we already are on the threshold of a post-scarcity economy, but we do a crappy job of allocating those resources. If we look at Star Trek through Webb’s critical prism, the implications are clear: humanity can do better.

Jul 102013
 

Most of my comics reading is done at Comixology. It works well enough, but I don’t actually own the comics I purchase on Comixology. Instead, I’m paying for a license to read specific comics files stored on Comixology’s servers. If I lost Internet access or if Comixology goes out of business, I lose access to my collection. It’s another example of digital rights management (DRM) that inconveniences paying customers like me while doing nothing to discourage piracy. But unless I want to pirate (which I don’t), it’s the only way to get the digital comics I want.

That is, until Image Comics, publisher of notable titles like The Walking Dead and the excellent Saga, began selling DRM-free comics on its own site. I tried out the store last night and, while the layout needs some improvement, it delivers as promised. I can download my comics in a number of formats and read them on my PC or iPad. And I own the actual digital file. The selection at the store is still paltry, but Image is promising to add more current and back issues.

I’m hoping that Marvel and DC will eventually follow suit and offer DRM-free comics. Digital music went through a similar evolution when the industry realized that customers will gladly pay for content that doesn’t come with burdensome restrictions. Hopefully, the comics industry is coming to the same realization.

Jun 062013
 

I finally got around to watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones–the one featuring the now-infamous Red Wedding scene. It’s a pivotal scene in the books and could have easily descend into melodrama in the hands of less capable television writers. But the scene is executed perfectly and achieves a visceral shock that few other episodes of serial television have rivaled. Even though I knew what would transpire, I still gasped when the sheer brutality of the scene unfolded before me. And judging from the reaction on the Internet, fans of the show who haven’t read the books were even more deeply affected. It’s a testament to both the quality of George R.R. Martin’s writing and the skill of those adapting it to the screen.

Jun 032013
 

Matt Smith announced that he will be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year, sending fans into yet another perennial state of mourning. While I remain partial to the David Tennant iteration of the good Doctor, I enjoyed Smith’s goofy charm and bow tie fetish. Of course, I can’t refrain from some idle speculation about the next Doctor. I’d love to see Idris Elba in the role, but I suspect he’s gone a bit too Hollywood to be lured back into a weekly series. And while a female Doctor is long overdue, the writers may not be ready to move beyond the current dynamic of a reasonably handsome male Doctor paired with an attractive female companion. But I would be happy to be proven wrong.